By Dr. Richard A. Byron-Cox
In their intercourse with bigger players, small states of the Third World are expected to be accommodating, compromising, compliant; never challenging. While there can be no disputing mini states’ handicaps in an arena where power fire the shots, some Caribbean leaders have used this as an excuse to surrender the very essence of our nationhood. They therefore behave like worms, crawling on their stomachs, burrowing into the ground head first, when dealing with those who are convinced of their innate superiority to all others. These leaders surrender even the sovereignty of their minds; outsourcing thinking, and opting to be yes-men to foreign dictates at the expense of their people.
This practiced mental laziness and conscientious subservience, reduce these so-called leaders to receptacles and conduits in the service of neocolonial ideas and practices, most injurious to our future. Called to shepherd us to progress, they are instead captives to what they consider the perfect prescriptions of the all-knowing IMF, World Bank, and WTO. Not daring to question Brussels and Washington, they even ignored that mad cow, foot and mouth, and the recent Ehec are all illness originating from Europe, and with Abrahamic obedience refused to ban food products from the contaminated countries, thus exposing our peoples to serious illnesses, even death!!
One recalls that except for Jamaica and Barbados, these slave-minded leaders dutifully signed the Ship Riders’ agreement allowing the USA to inter alia, spray marijuana plants in the water catchment areas of some countries. No, I am not promoting ganja use; but does anybody know what substance Uncle Sam sprayed? Do we know how Vietnam suffers from the after effects of Argent Orange? Will we be seeing birth defects in time to come? And if any of this happens, who do we blame; Uncle Sam, or these Uncle Toms who signed without a thought for their people’s wellbeing?
For two and a half decades we are being told that the “Washington Consensus” will make us prosper. The gospel is: surrender all our countries’ wealth to the 0.001 percent superrich in the region; deregulate everything; give the “market” a free reign and reduce taxes on the rich and superrich, and these will create our land of milk and honey. Conversely, through the application of value added tax and the like, the Poor must be forced to shoulder the financial obligations of the state. Some even promote the Iron Lady’s view that there is no such thing as “society”; there is only “a man, a woman and a child.”
They do precious little to protect our indigenous industries, embracing so-called free trade with its unfairness, injustice and inhumanity. Convinced of their mental sterility, they accept that tourism is our only salvation. And, it matters not if the resulting landscape of ownership in this tourism is totally white-foreign populated. Their explanation is simple; we must be “business friendly” as determined by Standard & Poor’s, IMF and the other masked executioners of the anti-poor and anti-Third World policies of the rich world.
Worse still, there are those who agree that any intervention by the state in the economy is communism, a deadly sin to be avoided at all cost. (Never mind that USA and Europe are calling on communist China to bail them out of their financial and stunted- growth dilemmas). Isn’t it amazing that the lifeblood of a society, namely its economy should be unregulated?
So trickle-down economics where all opportunities are furnished for the rich to get richer at the expense of everyone else including the indigent poor, (all under the false notion that we will all benefit) is embraced by these numskulls too dumb to see the truth. Some accept that the world’s big bankers be paid huge salaries and bonuses for their special talents, the manifestation of which is the world’s present financial and economic malaise. Downsizing is allowed, exacerbating the serious unemployment situation existing in some developed economies. Caribbean people must therefore be vigilant if our mentally paralyzed leaders are not to construct a society where people are seen as either income or expenditure. Nothing more!
But guess what? After almost a generation of the Washington Consensus, from Ireland and Italy, to Portugal and the USA, not to mention Greece, are broke or seriously indebted. The income of the lower paid and middle classes have not increase in real terms; while that of the 0.005% superrich has risen astronomically, in the case of the USA by 200% and more. Unemployment is rampant! In Spain it’s more than 20%, rising to over 40% among the youth. Foreclosure on homes is the order of the day in the USA.
There are legions of homeless, unemployed, and economic desperados lining up at soup kitchens from Athens to New York. The banks and big business for which everything is done, having lost peoples’ savings, must now bailed out with taxpayers (poor people) money. The working poor must now work more, longer and for less (including reduce pensions) all in the interest of the superrich.
Through so-called free trade our banana market was destroyed, while we are flooded with imports from these rich countries. The Washington institutions preach to us balancing the budgets, which translated means, more pain for the Poor through retrenchment, serious cuts in necessary social services, and the liquidation of others.
After more than 3 plus years of a dire economic and financial situation worldwide, even those who were intent on strangling the Third World with this Consensus are forced to reconsider. So at Davos 2012 a fundamental question was: whether capitalism has now failed beyond repair? No person with a milligram of gray matter is under any illusion that this Consensus is a system fueling greed, selfishness, inhumane exploitation of the working class, absurd and insane economic inequalities, homelessness; the bankruptcy of the state and the surrender of popular democracy to the moneyed few.
So this brings me back to where I started. Do we accept as Caribbean people that this Washington/ Brussels dictate is the only way? Do we agree with the puppet leaders that we are too small and too weak to think of an alternate path? Some claim that this unregulated greed and free but unfair trade made the first world rich and will do the same for us. But as Cambridge professor Ha Joon Chang shows in his “Bad Samaritans”, this is a barefaced lie perpetuated in the interest of the rich.
So what will we do as a people? Will we begin to think for ourselves? Are we really so mentally depraved that we will readily consent to live in persistent poverty? Is it really beyond us to creatively think and design a way forward that put our people first? Well, if this is decidedly the case, surely a fate worse than Greece’s awaits; for as Caribbean old people know, “Follow-fashion dog must catch mange.”